Airing their fears: An aerial view of demonstrators gathering in front of Dataran Merdeka to rally against the GST. — GLENN GUAN / The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: The anti-Goods and Services Tax (GST) rally ended prematurely as rain descended upon Dataran Merdeka where a massive crowd had gathered.
The rally, held in protest against the Federal Government, went on peacefully with no untoward incident except for a few scuffles between people wearing the Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) T-shirts and PAS Unit Amal volunteers.
Protesters gathered at eight different meeting points in the city as early as 7am yesterday to take part in the rally against the new tax, scheduled to be implemented next year.
More than 12 buses and trucks filled with policemen were deployed and they managed to maintain order as people started to march to Data-ran Merdeka at 2pm.
The protesters ignored police orders by bringing children to the rally while some shouted slogans including Tolak Reformasi, Bangkit (rise) and Reformasi (reformation).
Early on, the crowd at Sogo shopping complex were impatient and started marching when Pakatan leaders were giving speeches.
“Save your speeches, we just want to march,” one of the supporters said.
When the congregation reached Dataran Merdeka at 1pm, they were told to turn back by Unit Amal personnel as protesters were only allowed along Jalan Raja between 2pm and 5pm.
The group complied and came back at the appointed time.
By 3pm, the rest of the crowd from KLCC, Masjid Negara and Dataran Maybank arrived with several Pakatan leaders.
With dark clouds looming, the leaders, including PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, deputy president Azmin Ali,
PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar and PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu took turns to give speeches.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was the last to speak before the crowd dispersed due light drizzle and thunderstorm at 5.30pm.
While the rally was billed as a protest against the tax, a move by PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat to post a picture of the rally on Facebook had apparently turned the gathering into a march of support to PAS’ controversial bid to introduce Hudud in Kelantan.
The caption under a photograph of the rally read: “A view from DBKL Tower of the gathering to protest GST and to support the implementation of Hudud on May 1 at Dataran Merdeka,”
In another development, police denied talk circulating on the Internet that a Unit Amal member was stabbed to death.
Dang Wangi OCPD Asst Comm Zainuddin Ahmad said a photograph that depicted a man lying unconscious was circulated by irresponsible individuals via social media site Twitter.
“The photo was that of an incident that happened a year ago. I can confirm that no one was hurt during the rally,” he said when contacted.
He also refuted allegations spread via SMS that Anwar was arrested shortly after the crowd dispersed.
In a statement issued by the city police, the police thanked the public for “practising tolerance” in maintaining peace.
“During the rally, the situation was under control. There were minor scuffles here and there but nothing serious happened. However, we will continue to monitor several locations,” it said.